The relative scarcity of physicians has reached critical levels in many rural communities of California and small towns across the country. To address the health-care crisis, some medical schools have developed programs aimed at encouraging doctors towards practicing in underserved areas. As recently reported byAmerican Medical News:
There's no national count of such programs, and the types of programs vary widely from one school to the next, [Randy Longenecker, MD, clinical professor of family medicine and assistant dean for Rural Medical Education at Ohio State University College of Medicine] said.
Some schools focus on identifying students from rural backgrounds through the admissions process or as early as high school, while some seek to give students a breadth of experience in rural medicine during medical school. Other schools are opening campuses in small towns and cities to immerse students in rural settings.
Offering students hands-on experience in rural communities prepares them for the realities of rural practice, Dr. Longenecker said.
"The more months students spend in rural areas, either in medical school or residency, the more likely they are to go into rural practice," he said. "We're creatures of habit, and the context in which we are trained seems to be more important or as important as how we are trained."
The rural-track offering at the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota Medical School is one of the oldest programs mentioned in the story. Since 1972, the program has graduated 1,636 physicians, and about 46 percent of graduates have gone into family medicine. Roughly 44 percent of that group practice in communities with populations smaller than 20,000.